United Nations Commemorates 2023 World Arabic Language Day

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United Nations

The United Nations (UN) observed World Arabic Language Day (WALD) on December 18, 2023, marking the annual celebration initiated by the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in 2010. The purpose of WALD is to advocate for cultural diversity and the equitable use of the six official working languages across the UN.

December 18th holds special significance as the chosen date to commemorate Arabic Language Day, marking the pivotal moment in 1973 when the General Assembly formally acknowledged Arabic as one of the United Nations’ official languages. Alongside English, French, Russian, Spanish, and Chinese, Arabic was granted official status, symbolizing linguistic diversity within the UN framework.

This year’s theme, “Arabic, the Language of Poetry and Arts,” underscores the inherent beauty and literary richness of the Arabic language. The choice of theme aligns with the 50th anniversary of Arabic being proclaimed as one of the UN’s official languages in 1976.

Commemoration in Nigeria

To mark the 2023 event in Nigeria and celebrate the artistic and poetic brilliance of the Arabic language, the Nigerian Arabic Language Village (NALV) is collaborating with the Academic Society for Arabic Language and Literature in Nigeria (ASALLIN). The collaboration aims to bring together researchers, academics, organizations, and institutions to discuss and enlighten the Nigerian public on how Arabic has historically influenced knowledge and societal transformations through poetry and the arts.

The Nigerian event, scheduled at the Musa Usman Secretariat in Maiduguri, will feature various activities, including an evening literary banquet. Prof. Babagana Zulum, the ‘Pride of Nigerian Professors’ and Governor of Borno State, will serve as the Chief Host, and the Shehu of Borno, His Highness Alhaji Dr. Abubakar Ibn Umar Garbai Al-Amin El-Kanemi, will be the Royal Father of the Day. Dignitaries such as Khalifa Sheikh Ali Abul-Fatahi and Prof. Mai Muhammad are expected to grace the occasion.

The Vice-Chancellor of Borno State University, Prof. Umar Kyari Sandabe, will chair the event, with Dr. Taofeeq from BUK showcasing his multilingual skills.

As the Keynote Speaker, the writer will highlight this year’s theme, shedding light on the cultural heritage and global significance of the Arabic language. Distinguished guests, including professors of Arabic in Nigeria, will showcase the role and impact of Arabic on literature, science, and technology.

Since 2012, UNESCO, in collaboration with the Sultan Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud Foundation, has annually observed WALD on December 18th. Prof. Ibrahim Muhammad, Director/CEO of the NALV, has played a pivotal role in elevating the event’s national significance through his colloquium, earning him the title “Chief Advocate of Arabic Language and Culture in Nigeria.” This year’s event will also honor Prof. Abubakar A. Rasheed, the former Executive Secretary of the National Universities Commission.

Arabic, spoken by 422 million native speakers and used by approximately 1.5 billion Muslims globally, has made a profound impact on the English language, with over 7,000 words either directly Arabic or derived from it. Examples include cotton, coffee, alcohol, saffron, emir, and giraffe.

Soukaina Sghir

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